People of the Western Cape, visitors to the Western Cape or anyone who can point to the Western Cape on a map, you have until the 20th of this month to voice your opinions on the topic of speed, or the lack thereof.
People of the Western Cape, visitors to the Western Cape or anyone who can point to the Western Cape on a map, you have until the 20th of this month to voice your opinions on the topic of speed, or the lack thereof. A reduction of the provinces speed limits by 10km/h is being planned by Provincial Minister of Transport and Public Works, Robin Carlisle, and is likely to become a reality if opinions aren't coherently voiced.
But before you scuttle off to your computer and start typing a “Dear mister minister” email, let's look at what it entails, besides the fact that you'll have to allow for more road time whilst travelling around Slaapstad.
The need for speed has been a hot debate since the dawn of the internal combustion engine. The Arrive Alive website states that if you're driving at 120km/h you are twice as likely to die than if you were driving 20km/h slower. At 130km/h, you're chances of joining the choir invisible can triple. Places like the Isle of Man have decided that speed limits are a frivolous waste of signage board and have opted for none at all – but if you're caught talking on your cellphone while driving, you could get fined up to R13 000.
Back in 1987, the city of Melbourne in Australia was also going through their own speed re-evaluation. The speed limits on their outer freeway network was increase by 10km/h to make it 110km/h. Compared to a control area where no increase was implemented, they found that the crash rate increased by 24.6% with the measly extra 10km/h. A large jump for what appears to be a fairly insignificant increase. After this finding, they lowered the limit back down to 100km/h and the rate of accidents decreased by 19.3%.
The Aussies aren't the only ones who have cottoned on to this. Germany lowered their suburban speeds from 60km/h to 50km/h (accident decline of 20%) and Sweden dropped their highway driving speeds from 110km/h to 90km/h (decrease of 21% in fatal accidents). However, 22 of the United States upped their suburban driving speed from 5mph (8km/h) to 15mph (24km/h) and reported no significant changes at all.
Many countries have reported a decrease in road wear and tear, which in turn reduced the road tolls. The question still remains though, will anyone actually care?
Driving around South Africa all comes down to the subtle art of knowing where the speed cameras are. In between these harbingers of fines, drivers don't seem to give two hoots.
This is a generalisation of course, but not too far off the mark. No wonder out of 180 countries in the world, we are ranked number 23 in the list for road accident deaths.
We can't really say the decrease is a good or bad idea until it's been tested out. Maybe the Western Cape will be a good guinea pig for the rest of our country?
If after a few months Capetonians are more alive than the rest of us and joyfully using pothole-free tarmac, then perhaps it could be of consideration to the remaining eight provinces. Even if they do lob 10km/h off, we really won't be the worst for wear. In Japan they're allowed to drive only 30km/h in urban areas, half of what we get away with. Belgium even has areas that you're only allowed to go 20.
Minister Carlisle is not only intent on exorcising speed demons, but has a number of other amendments he'd like to make into the Western Cape Provincial Traffic Bill. One is the mandatory use of child restraints like seat belts and car seats and a ban on shared seating.
I'm with him on that one. It's cringe-worthy seeing someone sitting in the passenger seat balancing a baby on their knees.
There is also a move to individually fine passengers who aren't wearing seat belts, instead of pegging sole responsibility on the driver.
One of the changes that I'm in full favour of is that the blue lights on VIP vehicles may be used only if there is a confirmed threat to the passenger's life. So none of these “I was going to miss first course at my executive luncheon” excuses.
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine, so perhaps we should be glad that a politician out there is actually doing something to save lives and not just money.